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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




WE must point out the fundamental difference between representative and sensory elements, both primary and secondary. A representation is not made up of sensory elements. To reduce an image, an idea to sensations is untrue to fact. The idea of a color has no hue, the idea of a tone does not sound, nor is there any flavor to an idea of taste. An idea of intense pain does not ache, in fact it may be pleasant; the idea of an intense light is hardly painful to the eyes, and the idea of a jarring sound is hardly shocking to the ear.

            Sensory elements may pass through all degrees of intensity. Starting with the minimum visible, or minimum audible, for example, we can advance along a series of increased intensities, finally reaching a maximum. This attribute of intensity is specially characteristic of sensory elements. A sound may be high or low, a blow may be strong or weak, a light may be dark or bright, a toothache may be intense, but an idea of the same sensation is neither high, nor low, nor strong, nor weak, nor dark, nor bright nor intense. Representative elements lack intensity, essential attribute of sensory elements. Sensory elements, on the other hand, lack the attributes characteristic of representative elements,—namely, vividness. The idea or representation of an intense sensation may be very vague, while the idea of a weak sensation may be very vivid.

            Representative elements differ from the primary secondary sensory elements not only by the attribute of vividness, but also by another important characteristic,—namely, recognition. A representative element is not only cognitive, but recognitive. Presentative sensory elements, primary and secondary, have direct reference to the object, to the relations of the external environment. The reference of representative elements to external relations is essentially of an indirect character. In other words, sensory elements, whether primary or secondary, have immediate cognition, while representative elements have mediate cognition, or recognition. I see the book on my table; I close my eyes and represent it to myself over again. I look out of the window and see a house, a horse and carriage near by; I close my eyes and represent the whole scene over again. It is usually stated that the representation is a copy of the original experience of the presentation. Evidently, the representation is regarded as not being the same as the presentation, just as a copy is not the same as the original. Representative elements have the function of cognizing again, the function of recognition. In representation experiences are lived over again without the actual recurrence of those experiences.

            In order that a copy, a representation, be a true copy of its original, it must be cognized as a copy,—that is, it must be cognized as something already cognized; in other words, it must be recognized. The image, representation, or idea of a table is not itself a table, nor is it a sensory compound referring to the object table, it is rather a psychic state referring to the sensory compound on its objective aspect. The representation does not refer directly to the table as it is in the case of the percept, but to the table as perceived. The image, or representation, refers not to the object immediately, but mediately, to the object as object of the sensory compound, to the percept. Hence the object is cognized over in representation; in other words, it is recognized.

            Recognition is either of a general or of a specific character; thus in the idea “man,” along with its content there is also recognition in a general way; the idea “man” refers to man in general, the content not referring to any particular individual. The representation, however I have of my friend John refers to John specifically. In the immediate perception itself there is no recognition present. In the direct perception of the object “horse,” are hardly justified of speaking of recognition. In the mere perception of the horse we do not recognize it as a horse. The fact that we perceive the object as it is, depends entirely on the nature of the sensory compound which gives the sense of reality; that the object is identified as belonging to a certain class is due to simultaneous association involving the functions of representative elements,—namely, recognition. In the perception itself there is cognition, but no recognition.

            There is, however, recognition present, whenever the percept is associated with representative elements. When, for instance, on seeing a horse, I recognize it as my friend’s horse, representations of my friend’s horse pass through my mind, giving rise to specific recognition. On perceiving an object, and identifying it or recognizing it first as a huge beast and afterward as an elephant, representative elements with their function of recognition once more present, giving rise to general recognition, object being identified and classified in the process of recognition not as any specific experience that can be local under definite conditions. The process of recognition may pass from the general to the more specific, and in the course of the process of association with representative elements the object attains a more and more specific determination.

            The characteristics of the sensory elements are organic cohesion and intensity; the main traits of the representative elements are vividness, recognition and functional dependence. Cognition is characteristic of the sensory and recognition of the representative elements. Various combinations of psychic elements may give rise to various states of intermediary degrees, ranging from the most intense cohesion of sensory compounds to the most vivid independence of representations.


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